Saturday, July 12, 2014

Spinners Time Trial Series

I had never gone to one of the Greenville Spinners Time Trial events, mostly because I always had other plans. I had heard that they were a good time, and it was something I was at least interested in checking out, but for whatever reason I just hadn't made the time to go. The July event this year was the "bike swap and BBQ" edition, meaning that folks would be selling spare gear, and there would be food provided. After speaking to the wife about the event, and the free BBQ this month, we decided that it would be a fun time for everyone. I was going to give a shot in the "Merckx" division (which is for people without aero equipment), and she and the girls were going to cheer and take pictures.

After arriving and getting signed up, I got in a quick warm up period prior to my 6:07 start time. I probably should have set up a later start time, to give myself a better warm up and time to prepare and watch the proceedings, but since 6:07 was available I just went for it. I personally had a goal of finishing in 30 minutes, which by my rough estimates would mean I averaged at least 20mph. After seeing the start list, I decided to add a secondary goal of not wanting to be passed by the team that was starting 4 minutes after me. I didn't have any aspirations (or delusions) of mediocrity, but I wanted to have a good showing at the very least.

The first thing I needed to learn was how to start out. I'm used to starting with my foot on the ground, which would seem pretty standard. The difference here is that you have a spotter that holds the bike so you can clip in, as to not waste any time. I had to be reminded that with my feet on the pedals I'd need to use my brakes in order to keep the bike from moving forward. I'd also need to figure out which way I wanted the spotter to lean my bike, so I wouldn't fall over once it was my time to leave.

The countdown started. When the second hand returned to zero I was off, feeling relatively strong. I quickly got up to speed, and got into a rhythm. My work on the trainer over the winter had taught me a little bit about what cadence I should attempt to keep in order to keep my power and heart rate in the threshold range, so I found a gear that would help me keep that pace and I just kept pedalling. The course was an out and back around perimeter road at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center (SCTAC). The road is not flat, nor is it smooth, so keeping a solid pace was going to be a bit tricky. I didn't want to work too hard on a section to not have energy at the end. I've ridden around this course on many a Tuesday evening as a warm up to the country rides that are hosted by the Greenville Spinners during the spring and summer.

Heading Out

What I realized about half way out on the course was that I really needed to take a nature break prior to starting the time trial. With a full bladder I had two very distinct issues. First was that I couldn't get comfortably into the drops, as it was putting a lot of pressure on my quite full bladder. I found that just having my hands on the hoods and keeping as low as I could tolerate was working reasonably well, so I just went with that for the majority of the ride. The downside was that in places where standing up to sprint would be beneficial I had to shift positions. The second issue was that having anything to drink was going to cause the condition to only get worse. It meant that I wasn't keeping myself as hydrated as I could have been through the time trial. This wasn't a major issue since getting water meant I had to reach down to my bottles anyway, so I had already figured hydration would be limited. Since my goal time was 30 minutes, I just had to power my way through it.

Most of the way out on the course, sometime unexpected happened: I passed someone! I knew the cyclist in question, and she's in general a very strong rider. Only having seen time trials on TV I did the best I could to move to the left, call out passing, and keep on rolling by without attempting to gain any drafting advantage or cause any other disruptions to myself of the other rider. With out any further incident, I made it to the turn. I was a little nervous about this portion, as tight turns are not my real forte. I will more often than not decide to clip out when making a U-turn in the road, as I am just not comfortable with the situation. To compound matters I wasn't 100% sure of where the turn around process would be like. With just a cone in the middle of the road to mark the spot, I had to do my best to not lose any unnecessary time while going back the other direction. Amazingly I made the turn without any real issues.

Making the turn without incident, I was feeling rather strong. I hadn't been overtaken by any of the folks behind me, so I felt like I was right where I needed to be. A quick look at my bike computer stated that my average speed was almost 22mph for the trip out. Definitely on target. I knew that the ride back to the start/finish was going to be a bit harder, as I was going to be facing two decent sections that were now uphill. While neither section was steep, they were enough of a grade to make you legs burn a bit harder than they were previously. To compound the issue, the first of the climbs is on one of the worst parts of the pavement. I lovingly like to think of this section as being like the cobbles in the Spring Classics. I have often imagined that riding on those streets in Europe would feel similar. Having a full bladder and legs that had been pushed hard for 5 miles already made the already rough road feel even worse. As much as I knew otherwise, much of the way back felt like I was climbing. My legs were getting more and more tired.

About halfway back to the start/finish line, I got passed by two people at about the same time. While I wasn't expecting to stay out by myself the entire time, I wasn't really expecting to see two folks come by. That means at best someone had gained over 2 minutes on me. At first I kept to my cadence, keeping myself in check. As we closed back in to the final turn to the finish, I was realizing that they really weren't picking up any further distance from me, and rather I was slowly reeling them back in. I had a thought for a few minutes that I could overtake at least one of them prior to making it to the end.

As we reached the final sprint, my lack of ability to reliably get into the drops was starting to take its toll. My legs were tired, and my bladder was getting rather uncomfortable. While having my hands on top of the drops was comfortable and moderately more aerodynamic than just keeping them in the normal hood position, it was keeping me from being able to stand up easily. While the will was there to dig down and give it everything to the end, the result was more of bearing down in the position I was in and just powering through on the hoods. The image of me sprinting the last distance with everything I had was just not going to happen. Riding through the finish line, I glanced down at my bike computer. 00:29:11 is the time, and 20.2mph was the average speed on the readout. While not the official time, it told me enough of the story to say that I had met my personal goals. Furthermore, the team that started 4 minutes behind me had not gone by me. Thus I met both of my goals.

oh to be in the drops...

After a nature break, and spending some time with the kids watching the rest of the riders on the course, we made our way to the bike swap and BBQ. The food was catered by a local shop, and was extremely delicious. There were several other riders that had put out items to sell, a few of them looking to raise money for the Ride to Remember that will start up next week. Overall everyone seemed to have a great time. The only regret that I have from the experience is not attending sooner. The Time Trial Series wraps up on August 14th, and I plan on being there to try my hand at it again.

Food, with an extra helping of Fellowship

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